Friday, November 5, 2021

Thomas Pluck plots the perfect dinner party.

Josh Stallings here, I’m proud to have Thomas Pluck filling in today. Not only is he a hell of a guy, he’s also a stunningly talented and versatile writer. Prolific too, with over fifty published short stories, two short story collections, and three novels, Blade of Dishonor, Bad Boy Boogie and it’s just released Sequel, The Boy from County Hell. The Boy from County Hell is lyrical and brutal, hard and heart breaking. It reminds me of James Lee Burke, in it’s beauty, but it beats with a heart that is pure Pluck. 

Joe R. Lansdale said, “The real star here is his (Pluck’s) control of style, both hardboiled and poetic at the same time. Impressed.” Me too.


Q: Mr. Pluck, You’re having a dinner party. Which four authors living or dead do you invite?

A: One thing crime writers are known for, that often goes overlooked, is how often we rhapsodize about food.

"Your book made me so hungry!" is high on the list of things readers say, at least to me. And I know other crime writers have made me wish I was in L.A. in line for a food truck, or wherever their characters are having a good nosh. Food is a restorative, and less cliche than the cold shower that heals all wounds. 

And when writers get together for a meal, memorable times are had. In fact, I had quite a memorable one with Josh here, our wives, and Scott Montgomery, at a place in New Orleans said to be Elmore Leonard's favorite restaurant. I remember the eggplant stuffed with crab, waiting in line, and the streetcar ride, but I can't remember the name of the place. I think it starts with a V. Maybe Josh will jog my memory. So, in reality Josh would be at my dinner party of 4 writers living or dead, but because it would be cheating to include him, just assume he has a free invite and would be there.

To keep cheating, I'll begin with James Lee Burke. The king of the Louisiana crime writers. Not to throw shade at Elmore Leonard, who was born in New Orleans, but he moved on and isn't as regional as JLB. The first novel of Burke's that I read was Black Cherry Blues, and that inspired me to make a road trip to New Orleans with a friend from college, and go to Mulate's, where Dave Robicheaux liked to go. I also had a copy of Road Food, the bible of hole in the wall eateries before Guy Fieri was a twinkle in his hair stylist's eye. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Mr Burke, but his books have had a great influence on me. And they always make me hungry. He'd always have a seat at the table.

One writer who I've had a fine meal with, and would do so again, is Lawrence Block. We grabbed a bite at a Laotian place not far from the Mysterious Bookshop, a month or so before the pandemic, and we tormented each other after the lockdown by mentioning that meal. Or at least I tormented him. The food was good, the conversation better. LB writes some of the best dialogue in the business, and sharing a table with him gives you an inkling where he gets it from. So he'd be there.

I got to speak with Harlan Ellison on the phone a few times. For business, when I edited an anthology he graciously let me include one of his stories in. That book is Protectors, and Josh has a fine story in it as well. I met Harlan once, many years ago, at a Science Fiction convention. He was a great talker, and I wish I'd had a chance to chat with him outside of the signing line. While he would likely take over whatever conversation we were having at the table, he is invited. He is one of the first writers who made me want to be a writer, because he talked endlessly—I could stop there, but I'll continue—about the art and business of writing, and didn't glamorize it. He's the kid who ran away to join the circus and became a writer. The stories he could tell. 

And who could keep up with him? Joyce Carol Oates could. I've had the pleasure of sipping iced tea in Joyce's back yard while she talked about television shows with Sarah, my wife, and I hope I get the opportunity again someday. I like telling her that the first book of hers that I read was Zombie, the one inspired by Jeffrey Dahmer, so I got the gruesomest out of the way first. Another fearless writer like Harlan who doesn't shy away from talking honestly about writing, the magical side of it, that we are often embarrassed to talk about, at least publicly. Writers make a habit of venting on social media about how they "hate" writing. I get it, but if we hated it, we wouldn't do it. Is it difficult? Sometimes, yes. I won't pretend it isn't. But we love writing, or we wouldn't make it through those suffering times. And sometimes we just gotta vent about it, like screaming into a paper bag, to get it over with. So we can get back to writing.

Thank you, Josh, for inviting me to write this. May we be at a dinner party—among the living—again soon.


Clea Simon said...

Man, I'd be willing to bus this table just to eavesdrop....

Thomas Pluck said...

This ain’t BreadLoaf… you’re always welcome to sit at my table, Clea. I miss ya!

Catriona McPherson said...

Hi, Tommy Lovely to have you here. That's some sweet subtle cheating, sneaking Josh in! Cx